How do maternity clothing sizes work?

Long-sleeve women's shirts and pants hanging neatly in a closet
Photo credit: © Tiarra Sorte / Stocksy United

Maternity clothing sizes work the same way as regular ones do, meaning, you're the same size in maternity clothes that you are in regular clothes. If you normally wear a size small, you’ll be a maternity small, too. It's the same for numbered sizes: a regular 6 or 28 is equivalent to a maternity 6 or 28. This doesn't mean your waist is still 28 inches during pregnancy, but clothing companies keep the sizing the same to make shopping for maternity clothes less confusing.

Sizing remains true for plus-size maternity clothes too. But like all fashion, plus-size clothing sizing can vary by retailer, so be sure to take your measurements and check maternity size charts to ensure the best fit before you buy.

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The same rule of thumb applies to maternity bra sizing as well, but take note: Because your breasts grow throughout pregnancy, your regular bra size is likely going to change. Before buying any maternity bras, get fitted by an expert at a lingerie store, or take your own measurements at home and match them to a brand’s maternity size chart. You can also buy a bra extender to give your pre-pregnancy bras new life throughout these nine months.

Because maternity clothes sizing works the same as regular clothes sizing, you’ll hopefully find that shopping for maternity clothes is easier than you may think.

Do I really need maternity clothes?

Just like early pregnancy symptoms, whether or not you need maternity clothes can vary from person to person. For at least the first few months of pregnancy, you may be able to get away with wearing comfier, roomier items from your existing wardrobe, such as leggings, maxi dresses, and oversized sweaters. This may be especially true if you’re a first-time mom, as you're not likely to start showing your pregnancy as early as women who have been pregnant before.

There are many tried-and-true pregnancy clothing hacks you might swear by in the first trimester, such as threading a hair tie around your pants button to leave more room for your growing belly, or making your own belly band to wear on top of unzipped pants.

You'll probably start showing between 12 and 18 weeks, and by then, you might feel and look more comfortable in clothes that are tailored specifically to your changing body. Buying even just a few maternity clothing staples is a better option than purchasing items that are oversized and unflattering – or attempting to squeeze yourself into what’s already in your closet.

Tips for finding the right maternity clothes sizes

These tips for finding the right maternity sizes will make it easier (and hopefully less daunting!) as you embark on your search for maternity clothes:

  • Check maternity size charts. Maternity clothing sizes can vary by retailer. If you're shopping online, measure your bust, waist/bump, and hips, and compare them to a brand’s size chart to ensure what you’re buying will fit.
  • Confirm maternity store return policies. This is especially important when shopping online since you can’t try anything on. It might even be easier (and less time-consuming in the long run) to buy what you want in a few sizes, try everything on at home, and then return the sizes that don't fit.
  • Try different stores and styles. What worked for a friend may not work for you. Luckily, there are dozens of retailers and brands that sell cute maternity clothes for every occasion, from everyday wear to office attire to black-tie dresses.
  • Rent maternity clothes if you can’t commit. In recent years, many brands have started subscription services where customers can rent maternity clothes for every trimester. This is a great option if you’re still unsure about what maternity items you want to invest in, and if you don’t mind wearing clothes that have already been worn by someone else. (But don't worry, everything is cleaned between wears!)
  • Wear what makes you feel best. This one is worth reiterating – what looks the best on you as your body changes throughout pregnancy is ultimately what will make you feel your best and most confident during this exciting time. Have fun with it!
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Be sure to connect with other moms-to-be in our BabyCenter Community for even more maternity fashion tips, tricks, and inspiration.

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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

Grow by WebMD. When do pregnant women start showing? a new window  [Accessed September 2021]

Motherhood Maternity. Sizing charts. a new window [Accessed September 2021]

Haley Longman
Haley Longman is a New Jersey-based writer and editor who spent the early years of her journalism career covering entertainment, celebrities, and reality TV. She has been creating a wider range of lifestyle content since becoming a mom in 2017, including writing and editing digital and print stories on her favorite topics: women's health, fertility, pregnancy, and parenting. Longman lives in North Jersey with her husband and their son.